Housing News Roundup: March 31, 2016
The Case for an Earned-Income Tax Credit Housing Supplement
The earned-income tax credit (EITC), an existing broadly supported entitlement program, can be amended to include a housing subsidy for low-income workers, according to Peter Dreier, a professor at Occidental College. The EITC, which is indexed for inflation, raised 6.2 million people out of poverty in 2013; however, the benefit level does not currently vary with the cost of living across the United States. To address this, Dreier proposes adding an EITC housing supplement. The supplement would cover the difference between a household’s EITC-inclusive income and the local fair market rent.
Source: Democracy: A Journal of Ideas
Colorado Children Increasingly Face Homelessness
The number of children living in poverty in Colorado has decreased to pre–Great Recession levels, but child homelessness is rising. According to the Colorado Children’s Campaign’s annual Kids Count report, 15 percent of the state’s population under the age of 18 was impoverished in 2014, while the child poverty rate in 2007 was 16 percent. Poverty rates among Colorado’s African American children remain above 2007 levels. In 2014, 31 percent of African American children experienced poverty, compared with 28 percent in 2007. Despite an overall reduction in poverty, the number of homeless students doubled over the same time period, reaching 24,685. “Many of our families are working multiple jobs, but they’re just not making a livable wage for the increase in rental prices we’ve been seeing,” says Anna Theisen, program manager for Denver Public Schools’ homeless education network.
Source: Denver Post
Former Homeowners Are in the Rental Market Long-Term
Around 19 million former homeowners are currently in the rental market, and many are unlikely to regain homeownership. An analysis by the Urban Institute’s Housing Finance Policy Center has found that the majority of these are households who lost their homes because of the mortgage crisis and recession, rather than having chosen to rent due to retirement or a job-related move. Forty-five percent of these former homeowners now have credit scores of 650 or less, which is lower than typical mortgage qualification standards. The only group more likely to have low credit scores is renters who have never had a mortgage, but this group tends to be younger and have less of a credit history.
Poverty Rising among Older Californians
The number of older Californians living at or below the federal poverty level increased by 85 percent between 1999 and 2014, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. The increase in poverty among seniors is more than double the rate of population growth among those 65 and older. Since the federal poverty standards are based on the cost of food, the numbers may downplay the challenges faced by seniors paying California’s high rents. The large majority of struggling seniors are women, mostly single, and often minorities. The contributors to the rise in poverty are varied, including insufficient retirement savings, depleted investments during the recession, and the effects of extended longevity and health care needs. “People who are turning 65 over the next two decades are generally going to be worse off than people who are retired today,” says Gary Passmore, director of the Congress of California Seniors, a nonprofit advocacy organization. “The numbers are becoming so big they cannot be ignored. . . . The sheer demographic reality of what we’re facing, how the population’s aging, will force that change.”
Source: The Sacramento Bee
Should Cities Find a Model in Seattle's Grand Bargain?
For growing cities with rising housing prices, Seattle’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) offers a model for engaging multiple interest groups and generating buy-in for increased housing development and affordability. Seattle’s grand bargain was developed over a ten-month period by a 28-member committee convened by Mayor Ed Murray. The committee included developers, environmentalists, social justice advocates, neighborhood groups, and tenant advocates. The agenda, which includes increasing measures to facilitate more and higher-density development as well as tenant protections and an increase in the affordable housing levy, hinged on agreement by tenant advocates, environmentalists, and social justice advocates that more development was essential to improve affordability and livability in the area. City council members who opposed the plan were defeated in the next election.According to Alan Durning, a HALA committee member and executive director of the Sightline Institute, this shows that “neighborhood preservation groups are loud and well organized, but probably a smaller share of the voters of the city than elected officials previously realized.”
Source: The Oregonian
Permanent Residents Face Homelessness in the Hamptons
Despite the Hamptons’ reputation as a locale for luxurious second homes, the area’s permanent residents include many workers who struggle to survive during the off-season. “You’ve got to remember that this community was founded as a farming and fishing community of people who lived off the land and the water—a real working-class community,” says Larry Cantwell, town supervisor for East Hampton. Due to high demand for housing subsidies and low turnover, the waiting list for housing assistance in East Hampton is closed. To ensure that every resident has shelter during the winter, local churches operate a shelter rotation that involves bussing homeless residents up to two hours daily to reach the church where they will sleep that night.
Source: The Guardian